Nov. 9th until January 20th, 2024

Tuesdays to Saturdays – 10am – 4pm

** The CPAG gallery will be closed from
December 25 until January 2nd **

In January it will be open from 11 am to 3 pm, Tuesday through Saturday

Cowichan Public Art Gallery, 126 Ingram Street, Duncan

contact: info@cowichangallery.ca

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Eloquent Silence: subtle subversion in Soviet-era Poland

In the 1960’s, Polish artists had to follow the dictates of Soviet Realism, bolstering a totalitarian regime, or be excluded and virtually silenced. Several artists circumvented Soviet restrictions by creating posters for motion pictures that were haunting, surreal, sad, sometimes funny, but always outrageous. Their silence was eloquent.

After Poland regained independence, these posters became popular with collectors, including Norm and Peggy Aylsworth Levine. Norm described how they found these gems:

In Los Angeles, my wife Peggy and I noticed a photo of the poster for the film, Chinatown. We were taken by the curl of a smoking cigarette which became the hair of the female lead.

In Toronto a short time later, we sought out a shop which carried movie posters. The owner referred us to a man whose collection of Polish posters were his astonishing ware. We were enthralled by these images.

During the communist era some of Poland’s finest artists were either pressed into service or gravitated toward public art. It became an artform through which to express a full range of release, from rage to satire. The constraints of the state fell away. The images rendered are shockingly bold and inventive.

Our favorite artist was Andrzej Pagowski. Candles emerge from the top of a head, birds nest in the hair, stairs climb from the nose and eyes become keyholes.

Many were recognizably American movies; others European cinema. The art spoke volumes.

A totalitarian regime engenders either sheepish compliance or an underground of subversion. Art is necessarily oppositional. It challenges the margins set down by a society that has settled for a conforming order.

The posters were of a moment in time, oppressive yet a crucible for a new artistic expression.

In a time when books are being banned, art is being cut from curriculums, and libraries as well as teachers are being directed to limit what they can provide, these posters are poignant reminders that even in difficult times, artists always find new avenues of expression.

– Rebecca Hazell

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Video collection

Polish School of Posters
Poland: Official trailer
Top 10 places to visit
Best things about Poland

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Exhibition Gallery

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Reception Gallery

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About the Cowichan Public Art Gallery (CPAG)

Founded in 2017, CPAG is working to build a world-class art gallery in the town of Duncan in the Cowichan Valley. Once completed, the Gallery will welcome exhibitions from British Columbia, Canada and the world — including engagement and educational events for the public. In the meantime, CPAG has an annual exhibition program enhancing and expanding arts and cultural opportunities for everyone. More than 400 individuals have signed our petition in favour of the project and it enjoys support from all levels of government. CPAG is a registered charity.